Free Anti-Virus vs. Non-Free Anti-Virus for Home Users

February 24, 2010

With so many different anti-virus programs to choose from, some of which are even fake as shown in one of our previous articles, how do you know what to get?  Here are some of the differences between the free and paid anti-virus applications available to home users.  Note: this article is only directed for home users. There are lot’s of subtle details businesses and organizations need to consider, including the license for free software. Emerson Technologies would be happy to help your organization find the right anti-virus program to fit your needs. Use this article to think about how your home computer is setup.Computer Virus
Often if you are going to get a free anti-virus program, you will notice that there is a version which costs money. Obviously there must be a difference between the free version and the paid version. Let’s examine an example anti-virus program “Xyz Anti-Virus”. The free version offers protection against viruses and spyware, and also features a link scanner to make sure websites are safe before you go to them. The version which costs money probably offers those features, and may also offer technical support, protection against a different type of malicious object known as a “rootkit”, a firewall, and email protection. The free version of “Xyz Anti-Virus” will only have basic virus and spyware protection and none of the other features; free anti-virus software will not have as many features as paid anti-virus software.

Here is another way to look at it. Driving an expensive car is nice and can come with a lot of cool features, but at its core it is still a car with a main purpose of transportation. Compare the expensive car to a more basic car without air-conditioning, power windows, heated seats, premium sound system, sun roof or leather seats; it still serves the same main purpose – transportation. The expensive car is going to cost more initially and is going to cost more to maintain. Now think of paid anti-virus as a more expensive car. It is going to have a lot of features, many of which are very useful and worth the money. There are still however other features that you may not need. Some might think all of these features might slow down their systems. It is true that some free anti-virus programs perform faster than some paid anti-virus programs, but this is not always the case. For more in-depth technical information on performance tests, take a look at AV Comparatives, an independent anti-virus review website.

In general, most home users will be fine with free anti-virus software assuming the following: your computer is kept up to date with Windows Updates and the program is setup to scan properly. However, if you don’t want to risk anything or if you are worried about a free program and aren’t sure what you need, you can purchase a full featured anti-virus program. They aren’t too expensive and often have versions that are licensed for use on up to 3 computers, so you can install them on your home computer and laptop.

By the way, it is NOT good to have more than 1 anti-virus application installed on your computer. They will conflict with each other and significantly slow down your computer. This can often lead to the anti-virus programs detecting each other and trying to remove each other (due to the nature of how an anti-virus program is designed). However, this is not to be confused with having an anti-virus program and also a secondary program that you use regularly to run additional scans periodically.

Currently, Emerson Technologies recommends that home-users install Microsoft Security Essentials for those looking for a free anti virus program and either Trend Micro AntiVirus and AntiSpyware or Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2010 for paid anti-virus application.

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